OPINION: DECLARATIONS JANUARY 22, 2010, 5:10 P.M. ET
The New Political Rumbling Massachusetts may signal an end to old ways of fighting.
By PEGGY NOONAN
What does the Massachusetts election mean? It means America is in play again. The 2008 election settled nothing, not even for a while. Our national politics are reflecting what appears to be going on geologically, on the bottom of the oceans and beneath the crust of the Earth: the tectonic plates are moving.
America never stops moving now.
Massachusetts said, "Yes, we want change, but the change we want is not the change that has been delivered by the Democratic administration and the Democratic Congress. So we will turn elsewhere."
We are in a postromantic political era. They hire you and fire you, nothing personal. Family connection, personal charm, old traditions, fealty to party, all are nice and have their place, but right now we are immersed in crisis, and we vote on policies that affect our lives.
It is not the end of something so much as the beginning of something. Ted Kennedy took his era with him. But what has begun is something new and potentially promising.
President Obama carried Massachusetts by 26 points on Nov. 4, 2008. Fifteen months later, on Jan. 19, 2010, the eve of the first anniversary of his inauguration, his party's candidate lost Massachusetts by five points. That's a 31-point shift. Mr. Obama won Virginia by six points in 2008. A year later, on Nov. 2, 2009, his party's candidate for governor lost by 18 points—a 25 point shift. Mr. Obama won New Jersey in 2008 by 16 points. In 2009 his party's incumbent governor lost re-election by four points—a 20-point shift.
In each race, the president's party lost independent voters, who in 2008 voted like Democrats and in 2010 voted like Republicans.
Is it a backlash? It seems cooler than that, a considered and considerable rejection that appears to be signaling a conservative resurgence based on issues and policies, most obviously opposition to increased government spending, fear of higher taxes, and rejection of the idea that expansion of government can or will solve our economic challenges.
And it's taking place within a particular context.
Speaking broadly: In the 2006 and 2008 elections, and at some point during the past decade, the ancestral war between Democrats and the Republicans began to take on a new look. If you were a normal human sitting at home having a beer and watching national politics peripherally, as normal people do until they focus on an election, chances are pretty good you came to see the two major parties not as the Dems versus the Reps, or the blue versus the red, but as the Nuts versus the Creeps. The Nuts were for high spending and taxing and the expansion of government no matter what. The Creeps were hypocrites who talked one thing and did another, who went along on the spending spree while lecturing on fiscal solvency.